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Lion Links: 7/28/16

In today's Lion Links, Orlando City gets friendly with Stoke City, Tyler Turner sees a full 90 minutes in the MLS Homegrown Game, ranking the best leagues in CONCACAF, and much more!

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome all, and thank you for joining for another edition of your Thursday Lion Links. I'm your host for the morning, Gavin Ewbank, stepping in once again to pinch-hit for Brad Newton.

This evening, Orlando City stars Kaká and Cyle Larin will take to the pitch to represent Major League Soccer in the 2016 All-Star Game against Arsenal out in San Jose. Kaká will captain the MLS All-Stars, while Larin might come off the bench at some point in the night.

Regardless, Orlando City fans will be hoping each makes it back to Florida in one piece and ready to take on the New England Revolution on Sunday night at Camping World Stadium.

But until then, let's dive into today's links.

Orlando City Falls To Stoke City In Melbourne

Jason Kreis made his unofficial head coaching debut for Orlando City last night in a friendly match against Stoke City out in Melbourne at Titan Soccer Complex. The Lions ultimately fell to the English Premier League side, 2-1, getting their only goal of the night from Hadji Barry early in the second half, but it was a good opportunity for Kreis to get an in-game look at a lot of his players ahead of his first MLS game at the helm on Sunday. There were plenty of positives as Kreis evaluated his charges, including the reserve side, which made up most of the lineup in the second half.

Tyler Turner Starts In MLS Homegrown Game

Meanwhile, Tyler Turner was out in San Jose, also representing Orlando City during All-Star Week, starting and playing the full 90 minutes for Landon Donovan's side in the MLS Homegrown Game against the Mexican U-20 team. The MLS Homegrown team lost the game, 2-0, but it was a good opportunity nonetheless for Turner to get a chance to play under Donovan, and with some of the best young players in the league, even if he did play a bit out of position at left back.

MLS Sees A Rise In ESPN Ratings

MLS delivered some good news on Wednesday, saying that games on ESPN and ESPN 2 have seen a 32% increase in views this year to the same point in 2015.

According to ESPN, MLS games on ESPN and ESPN2 have delivered an average audience of 312,000 viewers (227,000 household impressions), compared to 235,000 viewers and 158,000 household impressions up to the same point in 2015. An average of 46,000 viewers have watched matches on ESPN Deportes this year, compared to 32,000 in 2015, and the average minute audience to date for games on WatchESPN is 12,000 this year, compared to 5,000 in 2015. Spanish language telecasts on WatchESPN had an average of 20 percent increase in the average minute audience in 2016 over 2015.

Sure, the numbers still aren't that great overall, but it's a step for league to see this kind of improvement.

Ranking The Best League In CONCACAF

Ever wonder what a ranking of the best 15 leagues in CONCACAF would look like? Well, our blogging friends over at The Brotherly Game put together that exact list. MLS was not ranked No. 1, but I'll let you figure out where they ended up on that fun list.

Giovinco Named SB Nation's MLS Player of the Week

A hat trick against D.C. United was good enough for Sebastian Giovinco to edge out Didier Drogba for SB Nation's MLS Player of the Week award. Take a look at how the voting played out, and make fun of out Managing Editor, Michael Citro, for being the only person that didn't pick either Giovinco or Drogba as his PotW. Michael instead rewarded Sacha Kljestan for bossing the New York Derby, scoring one goal, assisting on two others, and then making Frank Lampard lose his mind before taunting him with "scoreboard."

Free Kicks

Dirk did the Zara PK during an exhibition match and it was awesome...What the hell is going on with Messi?...Dave Martinez wrote a great piece for on the untold stories of Thierry Henry's time in MLS...Real Madrid was denied use of a soccer field by a kids soccer camp...Wanna buy a house in Palm Beach with a soccer field? Sure, it'll only cost you ALL of the money.

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That's all I have for you guys this morning. Play me out, Catfish and the Bottlemen!